Select Committee on European Scrutiny Tenth Report


MONITORING THE APPLICATION OF COMMUNITY LAW (2000)


(22716)

COM(01) 309


Commission's eighteenth annual report on monitoring the application of Community law (2000).
Legal base:
Document originated: 16 July 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 2 October 2001
Department: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 15 October 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Legally and politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

Background

  3.1  The eighteenth annual report is the latest Commission examination of the manner and extent of the application of Community law by Member States. The reports are made annually, and earlier reports have been considered by the previous Committee.[5]

The report

  3.2  The report follows the pattern of reports in previous years. It begins with a general description of the results of Commission monitoring of the application of Community law in 2000, including a statistical comparison with 1999, a general review of the transposition of Community directives into national law, an overview of all infringement proceedings commenced or handled by the Commission during the year, and finally an overview of the use of the penalty procedure under Article 228 EC where a Member State has failed to comply with a judgment of the Court of Justice.

  3.3  In the first part of the report, the Commission devotes attention to the position of complainants, pointing to the importance of complaints in the process of detecting infringements, but reminding them that the primary objective of the infringement procedure is "to cause the offending Member State to come into line with Community law". The Commission recognises that the nature of infringement proceedings may cause complainants some frustration, since they are not concerned with compensating individuals for the loss they have suffered. The Commission reminds complainants that if they wish to obtain compensation for the loss they sustain, they must bring proceedings in the national courts.

  

  3.4  The second part of the report consists of a sector-by-sector analysis of the implementation of Community law. The report is the first one produced following the reorganisation of Commission departments, and the sectors are described in a manner more closely related to the Commission Directorate General responsible. There are, accordingly, chapters on economic and financial affairs, businesses, competition, employment and social affairs, agriculture, energy and transport, information society, environment, fisheries, internal market, regional policy, taxation and customs union, education, audiovisual media and culture, health and consumer protection, justice and home affairs, budget and personnel and administration. For each sector, there is a description of the implementation of applicable directives and of any infringement cases brought by the Commission against a Member State.

  3.5  In reviewing the statistics for the year 2000, the Commission notes that, for the first time, the number of complaints has fallen (by 6.13%), but that it has commenced proceedings based on its own investigations in a greater number of cases (896). Nevertheless, slightly fewer cases were referred to the Court of Justice (172 as against 178 for 1999).

  3.6  On the transposition of directives into national law, the Commission notes that Member States had, on average, notified 96.59% of the national measures needed to implement directives. The Commission comments that this figure "represents a sharp improvement in the transposal situation, as it is the highest rate achieved since 1992" and that this improvement is the result of an improvement in the situation in every Member State. The Commission draws attention to the efforts of Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece and Portugal to improve their position , but notes that Greece still has the lowest rate of transposition. It is apparent from the table at paragraph 1.3 of the report that the United Kingdom had transposed 1446 of 1493 applicable directives by the end of 2000 (96.85%). This is an improvement on the 1999 rate of 95.41%, and is above the EU average of 96.59%. The UK retains the seventh-from-top place that it has held for the last two years. Denmark has the best record on implementation (98.46%) and Greece (93.95%) the worst.

  3.7  In relation to infringement proceedings, the Commission notes that what it describes as "the same trio" of France, Italy and Greece still heads the lists, as it did in 1999, in all three stages of proceedings (letter of formal notice, reasoned opinion and referral to the Court of Justice). The Commission notes that the number of cases against Belgium which have been referred to the Court of Justice has fallen by 34.48% (29 down to 19). It is apparent from the table in paragraph 1.5 of the report that France leads by a considerable margin over other Member States at all stages. The UK is respectively fifth, sixth and fourth from the top in the three stages of infringement proceedings. Denmark, Sweden and Finland have the best overall records.

  3.8  In its review of the procedure under Article 228 EC (under which the Commission may apply to the Court of Justice for a lump sum or penalty payment to be imposed for failure to comply with a judgment of the Court), the Commission states that it has adopted three decisions to refer cases to the Court, against Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom case, which is currently in preparation by the Commission, concerns the quality of bathing waters at Blackpool and Southport and is the result of non-compliance with the requirements of the Bathing Water Directive[6].

  3.9  The Commission notes that in July 2000 the Court of Justice imposed a penalty payment under Article 228 EC for the first time.[7] The case was brought in respect of the failure by Greece to comply with a judgement of the Court requiring it to take measures to eliminate toxic and dangerous waste in the Khania region of Crete. Greece was ordered to pay a daily penalty. The Commission notes that the case is "preoccupying" as the infringement situation had still not been cleared up by the time of the report, even though the penalty payments were being paid regularly.

The Government's views

  3.10  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 15 October 2001 the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Peter Hain) assesses the policy implications of the document as follows:

      "The Government continues to support strongly the Commission's efforts to secure proper implementation and enforcement of Community legal obligations and compliance with the judgments of the ECJ. As part of this, it welcomes continued moves by the Commission to speed up action against Member States for failure to implement Community law and to act under Article 228 when Member States fail to comply with ECJ rulings. The Government welcomes this report as a useful means of illustrating progress towards achieving these objectives.

      "The Government is taking every step to ensure that the bathing waters at Blackpool and Southport comply with the required water quality standards before a financial penalty is imposed by the ECJ."

Conclusion

  3.11  As in previous years, the Commission has produced a comprehensive report. It shows that the overall level of compliance by Member States with their Community law obligations remains very high, and that a number of Member States have made particular efforts in this regard.

  3.12  We welcome the Government's continued support for the Commission's efforts to secure proper implementation of Community law obligations and compliance with the judgments of the Court of Justice. We hope that the credibility of the Government's position will not be damaged by the embarrassment of a further Court judgment against the United Kingdom in respect of bathing waters.

  3.13  Although the subject matter of the report is legally and politically important, we have no questions to raise and do not see any reason to recommend a debate. We therefore clear the document.


5  (20360) 10226/99; see HC 34-xxix (1998-99), paragraph 6 (27 October 1999), and (21545) 9957/00; see HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 13 (1 November 2000). Back

6  Directive 76/160/EEC concerning the quality of bathing water. The Commission considers that the UK has not fully complied with the Court's judgment of 14 July 1993 in Case C-56/90, Commission v. United Kingdom [1993] ECR I -4109. Back

7  Judgment of 4 July 2000 in Case C-387/97, Commission v. Greece (not yet reported). Back


 
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